Covid-19 has mutated into the Delta variant, which is substantially more contagious and severe than the other versions. Cases are on the rise as it spreads with greater efficiency and of course the media is having a field day. The CDC, as if anyone even trusts them anymore, has recently released new guidance suggesting fully vaccinated people should wear masks. It has called for universal masking in schools, albeit it recommends students return to in-person classes for the fall. I’m looking at you, teachers’ unions. If you simply google “Delta Variant” you’ll get results like this recent CNN article essentially forecasting doom and gloom. It even ends with a rather hyperbolic quote from President Joe Biden about people dying. Now, there is no denying that the Delta variant is a new issue. However, that doesn’t mean we get to repeat the same level of insanity we inflicted upon ourselves last year.
Viewing Delta in Context
The first thing that everyone needs to do is take a deep breath and turn off the TV. Media companies, although ideologically predisposed to a certain narrative, also profit off of hysteria. Yes, cases are on the rise, yes, Delta is more contagious, but it isn’t the end of the world. Getting Covid-19 is not pleasant and the Delta variant does seem to be more severe. However, we live our lives around countless diseases, many far more deadly.
The United States is almost fully reopened and returning back to normal so of course, the new variant will spread quickly. We also know that people will voluntarily start to practice social distancing and other mitigation measures if they feel it is necessary. These decisions should be left to individuals to decide for themselves based on their own risk assessment.
After a year and a half under house arrest, many people would likely choose the risk of infection over isolating themselves again. This is especially true for young people who have been disproportionately harmed by lockdowns. We must also remind ourselves that Covid-19 does not pose a real risk of fatality except for those with comorbidities and elderly populations, who are now more than 70 percent vaccinated. Vaccination provides a significant boost, but not complete protection, to infection, severe symptoms, and death, which is great news for preventing new deaths. The CDC has made this point very clear yet they still forecast doom and gloom.
What the CDC seems to keep neglecting to admit are the benefits of natural immunity, which is perhaps one of the greatest ongoing medical blunders of the pandemic. Harvard medical professor Martin Kulldorff, Stanford professor Jay Bhattacharya, and Oxford professor Sunetra Gupta write,
“If scientific leaders do not acknowledge immunity from natural infection, public confidence in vaccines and public health institutions will further deteriorate, imposing great harm to the public’s well-being.”
This is not a prescription to go lick a doorknob; this is simply a statement of the obvious. That is, having immunity, whether it is through vaccines or natural infection, provides protection against pathogens. This is what we learned in grade school biology. At the time of this writing, the reported total Covid-19 infections in the US stand at over 34 million, with around 50 percent of the population fully vaccinated and another 8 percent partially vaccinated.
Preventing death from ever happening is a losing proposition and a nonstarter. The objective of a sound public health response, not just with diseases, but with any issue, is harm reduction. That is minimizing damage while allowing society to function as normally as possible. Doctor Donald Henderson, who led the eradication of smallpox, articulated this basic principle in a paper available here.
That is why we should not be alarmed with the results we are seeing today because even as the more contagious and more dangerous Delta variant spreads, deaths have stayed flat.
The media will continue to pump out information lacking context about a surge in cases and the increased severity of the Delta variant. Although that information may be factually correct, they fail to communicate that with many of the vulnerable populations vaccinated, and more than half of the general population having acquired immunity, the virus poses far less of a threat. At this point, as it should have been from the start, it should be up to individuals to take appropriate precautions based on their own risk assessments. Sowing fear and despair is the last thing we need right now.
The Public Health Establishment is Losing Its Credibility
In May of 2021, a study published by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard Chan School of Public Health noted that only about 50 percent of Americans trust the CDC. That is quite understandable given their track record not just on Covid but historically. However, it is clear that recent events have dealt a serious blow. For example, they stubbornly asserted that lockdowns were necessary, only to be humiliated by Florida’s reopening policies. Dr. Fauci has also arbitrarily changed his position on a number of topics throughout the pandemic. Dr. Vinay Prasad comments on the most recent mask guidance by writing,
“Anyone who considers themselves a scientist should be embarrassed by our collective failure to generate knowledge, and this failure is once again looming large. The CDC is again recommending vaccinated people to wear cloth masks in indoor public spaces, at least in locations where COVID is surging. The CDC director calls this “following the science,” but it is not. It is following the TV pundits.”
Finding the CDC and the public health establishment to be ridiculous has moved from being a fringe position to a rather mainstream and even an expert position. If we are going to have a public health establishment, it would be best that they not only be trustworthy but also not encourage destructive behavior. That is because at the end of the day, as silly as their edicts may sound, there are plenty of people in power whether that be in the government or in the private sector who are willing to follow them.
A report from the Cato Institute provides a nuanced perspective on how to proceed forward when it comes to science. It stresses that in many cases, we need to understand what is a scientific fact, such as how social distancing may slow the spread of Covid-19, and what is a normative position, such as whether we should implement strict guidelines.
Sometimes, science can be more than just science; it could be politically charged, such as when many experts stated that social justice protests would not spread Covid but anti-lockdown protests somehow would. Finally, we must also understand that we do not know everything and should be humble. Science is very important to the prosperity and health of society, which makes it important that we use it properly.
In light of all this, the CDC and others in positions of authority should take note of the failures of the past and also learn from areas where we saw success. As a society, we must understand that the social order is full of economic, legal, and sociological factors that cannot be disregarded. Cases and deaths will rise and fall. This fall and winter we may see a resurgence in cases, as that’s what tends to happen. The bright side is that we have built up immunity, through both vaccines and natural infection, which will significantly mitigate the damage. There is no reason to sow unnecessary fear and there is certainly no excuse to reimplement disastrous policies such as lockdowns, school closures, and otherwise intrusive mandates.
I don’t want to consider myself a voice on Covid-19 or lockdowns, even though I have been researching and writing on the topic. Much like every other person at AIER and other organizations who have taken a stand against the prevailing narrative, we did it because it’s important. If you’ve read my most recent work from the past couple of months, you’ll quickly notice I actually have research focuses that aren’t public health. However, the response to the pandemic has seeped into practically every inch of public and private life.
It is truly dispiriting to see that the same chattering voices have not lost any bit of enthusiasm when it comes to cramming down narratives of death and despair. It’s as if we have not learned a single thing from the past year and a half. Although the Delta variant is certainly more contagious and more severe, society is also far more resistant than before and it shows in the minimal increase in deaths. The real danger with all of this is whether or not we are going to get the same incoherent set of impositions on our lives as the first few waves. Those in power should tread lightly because they truly have worn our patience thin for what is becoming far too long.